The wealthiest city in the United Arab Emirates is being touted at the Middle East’s answer to Silicon Valley.
The UAE went through a six-week lockdown at the height of the pandemic, but when things finally started to open up, Dubai and other cities saw huge numbers of ex-pats pouring in from around the world. Some were fleeing Chinese zero-Covid policies in Hong Kong and Shanghai, others decided they didn’t want to risk another wave and subsequent lockdown in Europe.
The result? Tens of thousands of remote workers have moved to the UAE in the last two years, according to the minister who oversees remote visa applications.
It’s not just the relaxed Covid travel requirements that are turning ex-pat heads. Dubai has some of the best infrastructures for remote working anywhere in the world after the UAE government has spent millions on public Wi-Fi, smart parking, electric car charging stations, and smart power grids.
The country was ranked at number three in the Carphone Warehouse Connectivity Index and has some of the world’s fastest internet speeds at 238.06 Mbps.
Furthermore, the relatively new Remote Work Visa that was introduced in March 2021 is also an enormous pull factor for expats, enabling people from all over the world to work remotely from the UAE for one year even if their company is based somewhere else.
Business owners can spend their days sunning themselves in the desert, and all they need do is provide proof of a valid employment contract for one year with a minimum salary of $5,000.
Dubai is also served perfectly by its geographical location, making it easier to accommodate other time zones. Remote workers could be holding a team meeting in the morning with colleagues in Asia, take calls from Europe in the afternoon, and touch base with US partners in the evening.
Travelling to these areas physically also becomes easier due to excellent transport links and luxurious, punctual airlines.
The UAE recently decided to reduce its working week to four and a half days, with the aim of trying to improve competitivity with other global hubs of business. The switch is under the condition that people will up their productivity and adopt a work-hard-play-hard approach to life where they can graft during business hours and enjoy Dubai’s obscene number of recreational activities in their off time.
Another huge plus is that there is also virtually no income tax and just a small 5 per cent value-added tax (VAT). This is one of the main perks reported by professionals who make the move to Dubai.
All of this paints a pretty beautiful picture of what life can be like as an ex-pat in Dubai and the UAE in general, providing you have enough money coming in. But there are some other things to take into consideration.
Internet censorship means that video calling functions are banned on apps including Whatsapp, FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat, Viber, Facebook Messenger. There are issues surrounding freedom of expression as homosexuality remains illegal and public displays of affection between unmarried people are frowned upon.
Strict laws around alcohol consumption also apply, and Dubai is notoriously expensive to live in. However, if you already have an income of over $5,000 a month, you should be ok.
Essentially, if you are willing to put up with a certain infringement on your freedoms, Dubai can be an incredible place to spend a year or more working remotely. Low tax, high internet speeds, and a total of 65 shopping malls to spend your hard-earned cash in – what else do you need?